Sharing The Planet

The children in Tanzania are fascinated with American culture.
The children in Tanzania are fascinated with American culture.
The children are the ones taking care of their younger siblings.
The children are the ones taking care of their younger siblings.
Fresh water is vital and these Donkeys are used to fetch water daily.
Fresh water is vital and these Donkeys are used to fetch water daily.
Pick Axe in hand Jonathan works at digging up an old water pipe.
Pick Axe in hand Jonathan works at digging up an old water pipe.
On a hike with friends looking for a good vantage point.
On a hike with friends looking for a good vantage point.
Lunch interrupted, these Elephants passed right by us.
Lunch interrupted, these Elephants passed right by us.
The Elephants were unfazed as we took a break from lunch on a hillside to take photos.
The Elephants were unfazed as we took a break from lunch on a hillside to take photos.
This Lion was looking to finish his lunch as well, and was not happy to be interrupted by the Jackal.
This Lion was looking to finish his lunch as well, and was not happy to be interrupted by the Jackal.
The Maasai, famous as herders and warriors, once dominated the plains of East Africa.
The Maasai, famous as herders and warriors, once dominated the plains of East Africa.

For some of us summertime congers up thoughts of vacations, catching up on reading, and spending time doing what we want when we want. But as we do a little summer catch-up with many of our students, we are finding busy and inspiring stories. As we have featured over the past couple of months, students have been busy learning new skills with summer work programs; sharpening their skills at sports, music, and art camps; researching as student scientists at renowned laboratories; and traveling to exciting places. The latter brings to mind a young man who has been traveling each summer for several years and recently returned from Tanzania with National Geographic Student Expeditions.

Jonathan Mozoon, a Whitman sophomore, is eager to share his experiences. “We landed at Kilimanjaro Airport at night, so it wasn’t until the next day that I got to see just how beautiful the country is,” said Jonathan. “I was impressed by the amount of independence and trust the people have in each other, and at such a young age too. Many of the younger people I met were taking care of their young siblings while the parents worked. Clean water is of major concern, you would often see women herding their donkeys to the wells to bring back fresh water in large barrels.”

One of the tasks that Jonathan and his fellow student travelers had to accomplish was to dig up an existing water pipeline and replace it with a larger one to help increase water pressure for a Maasai village. In Tanzania, those who are fortunate may have water either in their homes or next to them. But many others must walk miles for fresh water.

In a traditional Maasai village, called a Boma, the huts are made out of mud, and the villagers create large, spiked, circular fences using tree limbs and branches to keep their cattle away from predators. “For the Maasai, wealth is measured in cows and goats, so they fiercely protect them from packs of lions that would come out at night,” said Jonathan. “For special occasions they would sacrifice one of their animals, and of course since our visit was deemed special, they sacrificed a goat on our behalf. As a special offering, one that I could not refuse, one of the village elders offered up the raw goats liver for me to take a bite. It wasn’t too bad, although they then offered a cup of the goat’s blood to wash down what I ate.”

Jonathan had more adventures to share. “While we were having lunch on the side of a hill one afternoon, a herd of elephants passed right behind us. They were totally unfazed by us being there. In the Angoro Angoro Crater we got to see a black rhino, which is extremely rare. There may be only a couple hundred left on the planet.”

To help make his visit smoother and more rewarding, Jonathan learned some basic Swahili. “My student group visited an orphanage, and that left an indelible mark on my experience in Tanzania,” he said. “The kids were so excited to see and speak to Americans. The little girls had on Hanna Montana T shirts. They were so interested in wanting to know all about us, and they wanted to see how my camera worked. The stark contrast of these orphans living in extreme poverty next to a stunning mountain range in a beautiful country really got me inspired to want to do something.

“This trip in particular has reinforced my desire to become more involved in helping to solve the problems that the world faces,” continued Jonathan. “We need more people who are willing to get involved and do something to fix problems all over the world.  We need to be better global citizens. I feel that much of the problems in the world come from people’s ignorance about other cultures, and as the world becomes more connected, it’s imperative that we become better global citizens.”

When asked about his future plans, Jonathan said, “There are so many interests I have here at Whitman that I’m not sure what I would like to do when I grow up. But I do know that I want to be productive and help the world.”